German linesman's reel backpack : Lieutenant A F Walters, 28 Battalion, AIF

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Bray Proyart Area, Framerville
Accession Number RELAWM04345
Collection type Technology
Object type Technology
Physical description Canvas, Cotton webbing, Leather, Steel, Wood
Maker Unknown
Place made Germany
Date made c 1917-18
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Linesman's backpack, consisting of a field grey painted frame, made from rivetted and bolted sections of 'L' profile steel forming a rectangle, augmented with a flat central strengthening plate. The upper and lower horizontal frames are contoured to accommodate the wearer's back and are fitted with a pair of adjustable, buckled leather shoulder straps, each ending in a metal 'D' ring. These are rivetted to the centre base of the pack. A pair of short leather straps incorporating a metal hook are rivetted to the centre top. There are two wide cotton webbing supporting straps running across the back of the frame, their ends rivetted to a metal plate which is bolted to the frame sides with three nuts and bolts.

The frame is fitted with cable reel, mounted to rotate on a pair of triangular steel arms. The reel has a central tube axle supporting a frame of longitudinal wooden slats, with a pair of circular steel stamped retainers at each end. There is a short section of signal wire still attached to the axle. The supporting steel arms are each attached to the main frame with a pair of hinges, and are equipped with a quick-release brass fitting at each end which splits the axle housing and allows the axle to be released. Removing the reel allows the arms to be folded against the frame. A heavy nickle-plated brass chain with a central plate pierced with a hole runs across the frame just above the height of the reel; the signal wire feeds through this. A pair of leather-edged canvas pouches are strapped to the top of the frame with buckled leather straps; one of these pouches holds the original Australian War Records capture tag.

History / Summary

German linesman or signaller's wire reel backpack, designed for laying new wire or retrieving old lines. The use of steel in the frame adds considerably to its weight. It was recovered by Lieutenant Arthur Ferdinand Walters of 28 Battalion, AIF in August 1918 from abandoned German positions at Framerville. The battalion had attacked and captured both Framerville and Vauvillers on 9 August, in concert with 25, 26 and 27 Battalions. This is one of 15 items which Lieutenant Walters passed onto the Australian War Records Section on 17 August 1918.

Walter was born in Fitzroy, Victoria on 8 January 1875 and enlisted at the age of 41 on 3 March 1916. A teacher, he had served with the militia in 86 Battalion as a temporary lieutenant and company commander. He embarked from Fremantle on 17 April aboard the transport Aeneas and sailed via Egypt to England where he received further training, was assigned to 28 Battalion as a second lieutenant and joined his battalion in France on 9 September 1917. Promoted to lieutenant three weeks later, Walters was gassed on 24 April 1918 when the battalion was in reserve at St Lawrence Farm; the War Diary reports: 'during the early morning our artillery put a practice barrage on enemy lines. Enemy batteries replied rather freely as a result of which we suffered casualties (1 killed and 5 wounded). On account of the amount of gas sent over, box respirators had to be worn for two hours'. He was evacuated to England, where he also contracted a severe case of pneumonia. and did not rejoin 28 Battalion in France until 28 July.

He attended Liaison School from 5 to 16 August and upon his return to the Somme, found his battalion in the reserve lines on the old Amiens Defence Line; it was during this period he passed on the German material he had collected to the Australian War Records Section. On 1 November Walters was appointed the battalion's Education Officer, and sent to Cambridge with the AIF Education Training School for specific training; he rejoined the battalion on 30 November, after the Armistice. As a teacher, Walters took the opportunity to expand his own education and attended courses at the LCC Education Department and was granted further leave until September 1919 to attend Glasgow Provincial Training College for Teachers. On 8 July 1919 he received word that he had been mentioned in Haig's despatches of 8 November 1918, and returned to Australia in October. He was again mentioned in despatches of 11 July 1919. Details for both MIDs are unknown.